It may have been a wet and gloomy Ladies Day at Aintree but the cloud occupied by the late Richard Woollacott shone down on his wife and current licence owner Kayley to give her one of the biggest wins in her training career as Lalor finally delivered his first success over hurdles when landing the Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle much to the delight of friends,family and racegoers alike.
Everyone in the racing family was stunned when news of Richard’s passing came through and this seemed to be the result everyone would have wanted, winner of last seasons bumper on the card he has had placed efforts over hurdles but the return to Aintree certainly brought about the best in him and he can kick on from here hopefully and go on to much better things.
On a very emotional day indeed one man who got a win that was most definitely deserved was John Hales, twenty years after One Man’s death in the Melling Chase his current star chaser Politologue just got the better in a titanic battle in the feature Grade 1 Melling Chase from the Willie Mullins trained Min for trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Sam Twiston-Davies, A top quality race on paper he was behind Min in the Queen Mother but the extra trip brought about his best performance of the season despite winning top races like the Tingle Creek and Desert Orchid Chases.
Paul Nicholls will have plenty to think about over the summer with this horse, natural targets would probably be races like the Peterborough and Ascot Chases so to avoid Altior in the big two mile events, Min is a top two miler but even more effective at this longer trip too.
The Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase over 3m1f was a more than top quality renewal with some top quality staying chasers on show and Nicky Henderson continued his good fortune here with Terrefort putting in an exemplary round of steeplechasing under the steerage of Daryl Jacob to get the better of the gutsy mare Ms Parfois, Already a Grade 1 winner at Sandown in February over shorter he showed no problems about staying the extra trip.
A lovely looking grey he will make Nicky Henderson wonder what to do now in making sure he doesn’t cross the path of Might Bite next season and he is a serious chaser for next season at the top table, Ms Parfois back in second is a tough mare and she can take a hand in the long distance division next season in races like the Classic Chase and Welsh National.
The Topham Chase gave the jockeys a chance to get their eye in for the big one tomorrow over one lap of the National course and it was a case of rewind back to last year as Ultragold repeated his win of last year albeit from a 5lb higher mark under Harry Cobden, making most of the running he jumped these fences like he was born to do so and showed that the Aintree factor is very much essential here, back in second spot was Theatre Territory under Sam Waley-Cohen who ran an honest race but still needs dropping a few pounds to get that elusive win.
Another Henderson winner came to fruition in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices over the marathon 3m trip for young stayers in Santini under Nico De Boinville but it certainly wasn’t easy as the mare Roksana made a race of it with both split across the width of the track towards the end with Santini just getting on top at the end, this is a very good horse in the making and has a top future ahead of him next season wether it be over timber or its just possible that fences could well be called for.
Ladies Day began with the Alder Hey sponsored hurdle over 2m4f and this race gave a good start for the bookies with a 20-1 surprise in Jester Jet for the Tom Lacey stables, this 8yo mare had missed Cheltenham after a gallant second in a Warwick Mares’ Hurdle back in February and made good use of her featherweight of 10-9, no doubt her paddock value will have had a few extra pounds added on to it after this as will her handicap mark which was 133 before landing this Grade 3.
In the finale a Grade 2 Open Bumper, that went to the 25-1 shot Portrush Ted who gave Gavin Sheehan a dream ride and dug deep when asked to easily best Kateson and Harambe by just over three lengths, as is the case in a race like this it will be stacked full of potential top quality novice hurdlers for next season and is worth keeping an eye on the form of it.
In summary Ladies Day was a very emotive one most especially for Kayley Woollacott and John Hales and anyone who follows this sport would have been over the moon for the pair of them, racing has its ups and downs and this was without doubt a huge up for both of them.
Everyone was shocked in the racing village back in January and to take over the licence and keep the flag flying plus getting a Grade 1 is something that Richard will have been dancing up on his cloud on Friday night.
Aintree has held another great festival as usual, you can be sure that whenever you come to this place you see that the north west has its own way of doing things.
So that brings an end to my jumps season for 2017-18, it’s had its ups and downs and now it’s time to concentrate on the flat with hopefully a few more visits to more flat meetings with the first one being the Thirsk Hunt Cup meeting this time being ran at Wetherby so a sort of final fling of the jumps if you like!